~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

Art and Creativity as Mediums for Empowerment , Connection and Change…

Archive for the ‘Healing’ Category

How Colouring is making a difference in Domestic Violence Shelters

Posted by carolom on June 21, 2016

I was recently invited to contribute to the newspaper article How Colouring-in heals the psychological scars of trauma ( <– see link) and as a result of the interview process I have a couple of pages of added information.

I thought it would be a good idea to blog some of  the questions and answers  that formed the basis of the article.

How did Coloring come into your domestic violence service?

Throughout the late 90’s and early 2000’s I was publishing an in house newsletter for the staff and women at our shelter. I called it C.H.A.N.G.E. – an acronym for Creating Happiness And New Growth Everyday

The newsletter created an opportunity for residents of the  shelter and outreach programs to share poetry and stories and for staff to promote programs and provide information relevant to the groups they facilitated.

We had already undergone a cultural change in the shelter regarding the physical environment evolving from one of issue based posters and imagery, to a much more positive and uplifting setting.

*See this blog entry for further detail:

Domestic Violence Shelters as a place of possibility not pain

C.H.A.N.G.E. updated

I was aware that the written word as a form of personal expression and communication relies on being able to read and write English.

…and that it isn’t everyone’s preferred form of expression. Delivering information in written form was not always culturally relevant for Aboriginal women or for women from CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) backgrounds.

As the daughter of a very creative mother, I recognised that many of the programs and systems in place in shelters are developed within an academic, not a creative framework so with the support of our management team and my colleagues I began to create tools that tapped into women’s creativity and gave the hands something to do that was engaging and fun. “Fun” is not usually associated with domestic violence shelters.

In the late 90’s I read Carl Jung’s memoir, “Memories Dreams and Reflections” and was fascinated by the concept of the Mandala. I had seen how the young women at our shelter would get very involved in some of the playgroup activities that were designed for their children, including colouring in.

I drew a very rudimentary Mandala and put the words “Believe in Yourself” at the centre and from that very first colouring sheet the women let me know that sitting at the table and colouring while the personal development information was being delivered had changed the group from a class room setting where they were often bored to a much more dynamic and engaging setting.

Our group attendance and retention rate increased dramatically as a result of offering creativity and colouring groups to the women.

I Believe n Myself Poster
Over the next few years I developed creative tools to accompany most of our in house information. For skills training in the area of budgeting, I designed a colouring sheet with circles representing their different financial obligations, such as rent, groceries, electricity etc and we coloured the sheet as we explored topics like budgets, direct debits etc.
The completed poster became a visual tool for budgeting rather than a hand written form that is often left in drawers or left behind in the group room after the session.

A very common topic in dv shelters is how do I change negative patterns?

…especially if it is the 2nd or 3rd domestic violence relationship that a woman is experiencing or she has grown up with domestic violence and does not recognise the intergenerational cycle.

For those sessions I designed Mandalas that had affirmations such as “I release the patterns that no longer serve me” and “I love and accept myself”.

Within a couple of years I had created a master copy folder of colouring pages that were designed specifically for issues affecting women in domestic violence settings but also other pages that related to relaxation and goal setting.
Our staff team enjoyed the colouring process also so I occasionally designed Vision statement colouring sheets for our team building days.

Patterns

How does colouring-in help people touched by domestic violence?

Colouring in is a form of open eyed meditation.  The rhythmic movement of the pencil slows the mind, acting like a kind of mantra because of its repetitive nature. Colouring brings the consciousness into the present moment. Rather than worrying about past events and speculating about the uncertain future around court cases and hospital visits, the creative process is relaxing and soothing. It is a form of mindfulness that is very effective for women dealing with trauma, who are in recovery from domestic violence.

Colouring is not competitive and it engages the hands which are often excluded from learning and relaxation processes.

Breathing relaxes, the mind slows down and for many women the internal stress is transformed into creativity and focus while they are colouring in.

Breathe Deeply b:w
When a woman arrives at a domestic violence shelter she is often in a highly traumatised and distressed state. She may have physical pain, post-traumatic stress  issues and is finding  it difficult to concentrate and focus.
Along with dealing with court cases, hospital visits, financial issues and worry for pets who have been left behind, a woman will often be managing distressed children and in some cases extended family conflict relating to her decision to leave.

I created a Colouring Pack for the women who arrived at our shelter.

We added pencils and blank paper to the pack. Many of the residents said that although they hadn’t coloured in since they were young, they felt relaxed and peaceful as they coloured.

I reminded them that we all had colouring pencils for the first few years of our life, at kindergarten and in junior primary but as time went on our creativity was often left behind in preference to the academic processes and outcomes driven education system that places the “arts” on the bottom of academic prestige and sciences on the top. As a result it is often seen to be childish or unprofessional to engage colouring-in as a training tool.
At the shelter new arrivals were often shy or distressed and uncomfortable sitting in a group setting but once they sat at the colouring table and there was no pressure to speak or hold eye contact, they would often relax and begin to share their stories in a much more organic and relaxed manner than if they were sitting with hands on laps and expected to participate in the group dynamics.

Colouring-in creates something beautiful from a black and white page. It is a personal, unique interpretation of the image and that in itself can be very reassuring and nourishing during times of distress and uncertainty.

Labyrinth

Tell me a little about some of the people who have found solace (if that is a fitting word) through your work?

Colouring Mandalas and black and white pictures is a process that is relevant for women of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

When *P was colouring her Mandala she looked up after half an hour of colouring and said I think this Mandala just spoke to me I asked her what it ‘said’ to her and this was her reply:
“When I was young if I ever felt proud about something I had done at school, my step father (who was abusive) used to always say self praise is no recommendation.
I never felt good enough around him and he was always cristicising me, he still does, but this Mandala made me realise I am good enough and I don’t need to listen to what he said all the time.
The next week she arrived at the group glowing, with a piece of paper in her hand. She had created her own Mandala with the words Self praise. The best recommendation.

We made many copies of her Mandala over the ensuing years and long after she left our service and went to University, her colouring page was there in our group room for other women to colour and medARTate on the words she had written and the important message she left us all with.
Colouring has taken her to a deeper, more reflective place within herself and in that place where she had rarely visited, insights and a new level of resolve awaited her.

There was a young woman in the shelter from a refugee background. *L had lived in a camp in one of the African countries for most of her childhood.

She was married at a young age and had courageously left domestic violence with her young baby. *L did not speak English and the staff members did not speak her language. She was shy in the group settings but her colouring style was so bright and skilful that she drew many compliments from the rest of the shelter residents.

Although the colouring circles were not competitive as such and everyone’s unique style was celebrated it was obvious that *L was a gifted artist and the recognition of her art connected her to the women around her. She was proud of her work and generous in showing the other women her unique shading techniques.

In this scenario colouring raised her confidence and self esteem and enabled her to be the “expert” in the room rather than experience isolation because she did not speak the language and we did not have interpreters on site.

Big Girls Picnic copy

 Would you like to see Coloring used across the country to help victims and survivors?

As a life coach and an advocate for equitable learning and embracing diversity I would like to see colouring circles in women’s prisons, homeless and domestic violence shelters and Community health and healing environments.
I would also like to see social workers trained in the process of engaging with creativity as a tool for case management as many of the students who come to our shelters are often very uncomfortable with their own creativity or using it as a tool for developing trusting relationships.
In settings where there are Aboriginal clients the colouring process draws on the cultural practices of art and creativity as central to community and learning through story and sharing creative practices.

Victims of domestic violence are entitled to heal and recover in their own time and colouring is a gentle, easy meditation and in that moment of colouring they can have respite from dealing with the vast array of pressing matters that fill every waking moment.

I would like to see front line staff and management and board members trained in the simple process of establishing colouring and conversation circles, this includes access to the colouring process as part of an organizations work-life balance policies.

As a community education and relationship building tool, colouring and the self reflection and creativity that it unleashes is  a fabulous, inexpensive way to build relationships and encourage creativity amongst women who are looking for new answers to old problems

Colouring circles are creative way for women who have escaped domestic violence  to offer her knowledge and experience, to “give back” as one woman put it in the Talking Circle aspect of the colouring circle.

Healing Power of Nature b-w

Carol Omer is a Certified Life Coach and Artist, specialising in Women’s Personal Development and Empowerment programs.
The Big Girls Little Colouring Book is available on her website: CarolOmer.com

The Big Girls Little Coloring Book is also available on Amazon

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Posted in ART of Change, Carol Omer, Community, Creativity, Domestic Violence, feminism, Healing, Patterns | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lorraine Karpany – Strong Mimini and Artist Extraordinaire…

Posted by carolom on December 10, 2010

* I would like to think the artist Lorraine Karpany for giving me permission to share the images and their Story  in my blog. *

Recently I was asked if I would pick up a ‘few ceramic pieces’ from  the local Aboriginal  College and take them to a rural Community  where I was presenting at a Womens Group. The creator of the pieces had been unable to get them to her home and I was very happy to oblige as one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work is meeting other artists and their work.

I thought ‘a few  ceramic pieces‘ meant that I was going to be picking up a few plates and painted china bowls but instead I transported several, profound pieces of clay sculptures that quite literally took my breath away!

Lorraine told me that she began by making a basic clay pot like most people do but very quickly the clay began to take shape and give form to her deeply personal healing journey  that has involved enormous loss and grief and mistreatment by the Australian government who inflicted the theft of Aboriginal children on a whole generation of Australians. My heart was deeply moved by Lorraine’s Story and her resilience is awe inspiring.

The children who were stolen and the parents who were the victims of the child thefts  are known as The Stolen Generation. The unspeakable, multiple  losses and relentless pain that members of The Stolen Generation live with is captured in these pieces.

They are also works of great courage, resilience and outstanding talent.

Lorraine tole me she had never created with clay before but  in six short months developed an outstanding body of work that reveals her enormous talent and originality. She  sells her work so if you are interested in knowing more  what her outstanding Sculptures please  leave a comment below.

I am not qualified to put captions to any of the photos and apologise for the slight blur in some of the images.


Posted in Aboriginal Art, Clay sculpture, Healing, Imagination, Lorraine Karpany, Stolen Generation, Transformation, Wisdom, Women | 4 Comments »

~ World Peace Day – September 21st ~

Posted by carolom on September 21, 2010

World Peace Begins at Home!

Peace, harmony, balance, generating feelings of relaxation and well being.

Being centered and relaxed  with the Mind at rest. These are the Gifts of Mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning Circle.

I created the following Mandala poster for Women living in the domestic violence shelters where I was working, after a newly arrived resident pointed out that the shelter walls were covered in anti-violence posters but all she saw was the word violence all around her and negative imagery and  it didn’t feel like a safe place to be on account of that. Shelters often have posters that are considered ‘educational’ but her observations brought into question their true value and worth.

It was a very important message she gave to the staff and I thank her for her invaluable feedback. We invited feedback from other residents and they too  made comments such as “that one that says ‘domestic violence hurts kids’ made my little boy  frightened especially   that one of the woman cowering with her kids in the background”.

We listened to what we were being told through the eyes of women  who had come to live at the shelter at a point of chaos and danger in their life and systematically removed all of the words and images that were not aligned with Peace and positivity.

We refocused on Peace to create Peace no longer using the word violence  in order to reach its opposite and the other posters and pamphlets that dealt with issues of violence and poverty were in the filing cabinet and only brought our if necessary during group conversations.

The World Peace Begins at Home poster continues to be one of the most popular of what became my  ART of Change tools and now lives in many houses on fridges and bathroom doors, each one coloured differently from the next.

It is not only Women living in domestic violence who are leading busy, chaotic lives though It is important for all of us to take some time to breathe, relax, play and create! That’s why Mandalas for colouring in are received so well by women who are living in shelters and women who are looking for some balance in their busy busy lives.

If you would like a copy of the black and white World Peace Begins at Home template, leave me a message with your email address and I will happily and freely share it with you.

*Please see note below for the Dedication of this poster.

This Mandala is freely shared in dedication  to the special memory of my friend Janet who lost her life in domestic violence in 2001.

We used to sing “Give Peace a Chance” when we were young and loving life back in the 70’s and neither of us could have known where Janets path would take her.

Travel in Peace my beloved friend….

Posted in ART of Change, Australia, Change, Community, Creativity, Healing, Imagination, Oneness, Peace, Personal Development, Relationships, Transformation, World Peace Day | 4 Comments »

Farewell Ruby Hunter ~ Ngarrindjeri, Kukatha, Pitjantjatjara Woman

Posted by carolom on February 19, 2010

The world is a little less bright today as one of the true Stars of Australian music has passed away.

Ruby Hunter was the first Aboriginal Woman in Australia to secure a record contract with a major record company but her greatest achievement was her love, inspiration and strong role model she was for all Women, most especially Aboriginal Women. She was and will remain a strong voice for Women recovering from violence and abuse.

Ruby, like so many other Aboriginal children, was stolen from her family by the Australian government and this deep trauma lead her to a period of a life on the streets and alcohol…until she met her life partner and Soul Mate, Archie Roach as a teenager…Together they enriched the voice and culture of Australian music forever.

Here are some of the tributes on the Celebrating the Life of Ruby Hunter facebook page….

**************

“Ruby ‘got’ people, was flexible and was generous with culture and causes. She was ironic and humorous. So many little girls have been named afterher!
Ruby didn’t just survive, she transcended, created and inspired. She mothered the
whole hurting country. Her passing is a deep loss for Australia and for everyone close to her.”

“Ruby, small in size, but her voice and her presence were huge, she could fill an amphitheater with love. She gave a voice to so many who were voiceless, she sang the songs that gave hope to our spirits, and eased our pain when it seemed insurmountable. She will be missed by thousands who she graced with her music, and her spirit lives on in her children, her music & the love she shared with Archie.”

“First time I sang at the Fly By NiteClub Perth as a soloist, it was as a support act for her and Archie….she had such a warm heart….and with her beautiful heart and warmest, down-to-earth, personality, she squeezed my hand and told me, “you’ll be right bub!”….and I will never EVER forget that! My deepest condolences to the family…praying for peace, strength & comfort during this time. Saddest lost…but what a life & testimony to celebrate & remember always! LEGEND!”

“Sometimes I would be hosting a women’s group for Aboriginal Health /d.v. services and was always mindful that there were some things that were not my place to discuss, areas I couldn’t really go to because I’m not an Aboriginal woman. So I’d put on her album “Thoughts Within” …we’d listen to tracks like “Sister”…”Women’s Business” and it would be RUBY HUNTER who would bring the story and the conversations to the room.
I can not find words to express what this has meant over the years except to say move over Mary Mackillop! ”

“As a young Aboriginal Woman…she was my “AUSTRALIAN IDOL ! !”

**********

Some of Rubys music can be found on youtube.
Archie and Ruby’s music makes sure we never forget the outrageous injustices committed against Aboriginal people…and the resilience and strength that defines the Spirit of the rightful owners of this amazing country we call Australia…

Posted in Aboriginal, Archie Roach, Forgiveness, Friendships, Gratitude, Healing, Injustice, Journeys, Kukatha, Magic, Mimini, Ngarrindjeri, Pitjantatjara, Racism, Ruby Hunter, Stolen Generation, Warrior Women | 4 Comments »

EarthSong Aboriginal Healing Pathways Foundation is Incorporated…

Posted by carolom on September 27, 2008

We are very pleased to announce that EarthSong is now officially incorporated as of September 8th 2008.

Here are two of our founding members Misters John Hartley and John Williams holding our certificate of Incorporation.


If you are interested in learning more about EarthSong, who we are and what we are doing, please checkout the Facebook EarthSong Aboriginal Healing PathwaysFoundation group here:
EarthSong….Putting Action to the shared Vision for Change…

Photo update on our first working bee….

Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Community, Domestic Violence, Elders, Forgiveness, Friendships, Healing, Journeys, Justice, Kaurna, Men and Women, Poverty, Power of Focus, Prosperity, Reconciliation, Staff Training, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »

Ingalalla Falls south of Adelaide- A beautiful place on a wet and windy day…

Posted by carolom on July 21, 2008

My buddy Deanna and I were both a bit tired, a bit low on joi-de-vivre… we know that this kind of too-much-of-the-city tiredness needs very specific treatment!

It requires packing the picnic basket, spending hours amongst Nature with a cup of tea in china mugs, accompanied by a piece of apple-crumble cheesecake from the Yankalilla bakery…. taking time out of the city away from the mobile phones waves and relentless traffic….noise traffic, mobile phone traffic, people traffic and the news, news, news…

Nothing else will remedy what only Nature offers the weary 21st Century gals!….(;-)

Here is where we went…and if you look really closely you can see the Spirits of Nature all around…

Ingalalla Falls…nestled in between hilly country that is green and clean and lush….

Posted in Beauty, Community, Dreaming, Friendships, Gratitude, Healing, Imagination, Laughter, Mystical, Nature, Ngarrindjeri, Sisterhood, Women | 4 Comments »

The heART of the Apology …

Posted by carolom on July 5, 2008

We are having the launch of the heART of the Apology exhibition on Wednesday.

There were 11 posters created during the Apology at Elder Park here in Adelaide in the ‘heART’ Space that we established as a way to give ordinary Australians, of all colour, culture and creed a place to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that was divorced from the political footballing and rhetoric that was flooding the media in the months….and years … leading up to the Apology.

 

There was sadness and there were years and there was joy…

My buddy Katrina has worked for justice for many years and like so many other Aboriginal Women. her courage and resilience in the face of systemic racism have been out standing.

Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Australia, Dreaming, Forgiveness, Friendships, Healing, Justice, Kaurna, Lifes Stories, Reconciliation, Relationships, Sorry Day Feb 2008, Stolen Generation, Stories, Transformation, Trauma, Unity | Leave a Comment »

Adelaide’s Central Fountain…

Posted by carolom on May 6, 2008

This fountain sits in the centre of the City…

The plaque reads:
This fountain is based on the three rivers from which Adelaide draws its water. The Murray-Aboriginal Man and Ibis…The Torrens- Woman and Black Swan and The Onkaparing-Woman and Heron

The Aboriginal Flag was blowing in the wind behind the fountain…the flag was raised in that very spot for the first time over 30 years ago….

I came across the following interesting info on the Beacon of Light page [click here]…
Recently the Adelaide Fountain Group sought to establish a beneficial lift in the energies over Adelaide starting by focusing on a sacred site in Victoria Square. The intention was to use this as a focus, linking out to problem areas to create change. Their work was developed from the original Fountain Group, based in Brighton, England, whose work had created a reduction in violence. The effects of that work are properly researched and documented.

The Adelaide Fountain Group was founded by Roger Brown, who has, unfortunately, now passed over to spirit. This group worked tirelessly, to create community healing, through the use of visualisation techniques to generate positive energy flows in Adelaide.

Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Healing, Oneness | Leave a Comment »

Beauty from the deep sadness- a ‘post Sorry Day’ story….

Posted by carolom on February 29, 2008

My very dear friend was deeply affected by the Apology Day to the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal Australians as the high profile, political build up brought to the surface many things that happened to her that still have impact today.

It was not a celebratory week for her and she refused the offer to go to Canberra as part of the group representing the Stolen children who have survived.

For those outside of Australia who do not know, Australia had a rigorous, uncompromising White Australia policy in place for many years of the 20th century and Aboriginal children were taken from their Mothers and Fathers, forcibly removed, with no reason other than they were Black children. Many of the survivors of the child-removals refer to ‘when I was kidnapped’ and it is a term that is very fitting regardless that they were removed by ‘authorities’ who gave themselves the power to subjugate Aboriginal people for many years. Kidnapping of children is none the less serious or devastating because it is a ‘policy’ by the government.It is the ultimate abuse f human rights, to take a child from his /her mother and refuse any more contact.

The grief and trauma is still very current in many people’s lives today so the  Rudd Governments pledge to “Apologise” was presented as a gesture of healing and reconciliation – although it was made clear there would be no compensation or legal recourse available to the children who survived the kidnappings. Many white Australians have been compensated for far lesser injustices .

My beautiful friend is one of those survivors along with her Sisters. She is a counsellor and healer herself and knows better than anyone what it takes to survive such widespread child theft and disintegration of Family, Aboriginal Law and Culture by the European arrivals who believed the Aboriginal people to be inferior and were often referred to as ‘savages’. Removing people from their homeland also meant that land could be stolen for grazing sheep and mining. This Land Rights based on thousands of years of occupation  continues in the courts  today in Australia.

On the weekend after the Apology my friend spent a couple of days with Sal and I and I invited her to create a piece of empowerment art to honour the Mother she never knew and the Sisters who were lost to her. The Apology opened up old and deep wounds, the death of her Mother who was never reunited with her Children is a pain my friend lives with in spite of her years of healing and recovery. It runs too deep to ever be completely free of the heartache of losing ones right to grow u with the Woman who gave you birth and loved you deeply. I understood that what my friend needed was not more talking about it all but an opportunity to give shape and form to her sadness and release the anguish from her body in a physical, palpable way.

 

We created the ‘base’ beads using arir-drying clay, they had a Mother / Goddess theme you can see here:

making-nungalas-beads.jpg

We painted the base coat and then she took the beads home with her after we spent a bit of time in the market picking the black and orange ‘filler” beads:

goddess-beads.jpg

Words could not express the joy in my heart when my friend came to see me yesterday on the way back from a gathering of her colleagues who work with the Stolen Generation and she showed me her clay “Empowerment Necklace” in progress…

As I held the amazingly energised, vibrant beads in my hand I knew beyond any doubt that “creating” offers avenues and pathways that ‘counseling’ rarely travels along.. Creativity shifts the energy outside of the body bringing both release and the ‘alchemy’ of making something tangible from something unseen yet profoundly strong in the mind /body /Spirt  /emotional circuitry system.

My friends Mother, Sisters, Daughters, Aunty and Grandmothers were all there in this beautiful strand of ‘story beads’..

nungalas-beads.jpg

I love my friend…her resolve not to let the shocking events of her childhood overwhelm her never ceases to amaze me…

Here we are wearing our beads that honour the Mothers whose children were snatched from their arms because the white people in government believed they were inferior to Europeans and needing to be controlled.

Honouring the Fathers, Uncles, Brothers, Grandfathers and Sons also is another chapter of the healing journey unfolding…

Posted in Aboriginal, Community, Creativity, Forgiveness, Healing, Social Artistry, Sorry Day Feb 2008, Stolen Generation, Transformation, Wisdom, Women | 1 Comment »

Sorry Day- This is what Katrina and Carol felt on the day…

Posted by carolom on February 14, 2008

A picture paints a thousand words and we all shared many tears and smiles and hugs on this historical, momentus day.  katrina-and-carol.jpg 

Posted in Aboriginal, Australia, Change, Community, Dreaming, Family, Forgiveness, Healing, Humor, Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri, Oneness, Reconciliation, Sisterhood, Social Artistry, Sorry, Sorry Day Feb 2008, Spirituality, Stories, Transformation, Unity, Wisdom | Leave a Comment »